China grants amnesty for war anniversary

By Hu Qingyun Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-25 0:38:01

China plans to grant special amnesty to some categories of prisoners, including war veterans, as part of the commemorations for the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II.

This is the first prisoner amnesty since 1975, and only the eighth time in the country's history since its establishment in 1949.

The amnesty will apply to prisoners who fought in China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and the civil war against the Kuomintang army from 1945 to 1949, according to a draft decision submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.

Felons who participated in wars to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity after the founding of the People's Republic of China would also be eligible for a pardon, although anyone who have committed serious crimes are not eligible.

Apart from war veterans, prisoners who are aged 75 or above, and those with physical disabilities unable to care for themselves will be pardoned.

The amnesty also applies to those who committed crimes while under the age of 18 and who received a maximum custodial sentence of three years, or minors whose remaining prison term is less than one year. Again, those who were convicted of serious crimes are excluded.

The four categories of prisoners are deemed to pose "no threat to society," Li Shishi, director of the NPC Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission, told a bimonthly legislative session. The session is held from Monday to Saturday.

The amnesty will not apply to criminals convicted of serious crimes, which include bribery or embezzlement, rape, terror activities, criminal syndicates and other violent offenses.

Those who were sentenced before January 1 this year will be eligible, the draft noted.

Humanitarian system

Granting amnesty is a national system to remove or alleviate criminal penalties and a humanitarian system that follows international practice, Li said at the session.

This amnesty on the occasion to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression is an "innovative practice" based on the Constitution, Li said, stressing its "great political and legal significance."

Qin Qianhong, a constitutional law professor at Wuhan University, told the Global Times that the act shows the Chinese government's confidence in its governance and legal system.

"To release some felons back to society demonstrates that the country has the ability to remold them into law-abiding citizens and maintain stability," Qin said. "It can help China set up a civilized and law-abiding image and an image that the country pays attention to humanitarianism."

Wang Ping, a criminal law professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, said that the move is in line with the rule of law and will help promote the authority of the Constitution.

"The concept of amnesty has been written in the Constitution but has not been used for decades. The act can increase public awareness of the law and build confidence," Wang told the Global Times.

China has announced seven amnesties based on the Constitution since 1949. The previous amnesty mainly applied to war criminals. The most recent one was in 1975, in which 293 war criminals were pardoned. 

Respect for veterans

To apply special amnesty to people who have made wartime contributions could also inspire patriotism, as it shows the country's respect for veterans, Wang said.

Qin added that the amnesty also demonstrates that China is a country which promotes pacifism.

The draft decision did not mention how many prisoners are likely to be released under the terms of the amnesty. 

Qin estimated that some 10,000 prisoners, mostly elderly, would be pardoned based on his research.

"These criminals might have no family to give financial support or no ability to find work. Returning them back into normal society could be a challenge for the government in the future," he said. 

Posted in: Society

blog comments powered by Disqus